I hope your favorite baseball team is doing as great as you hoped they would, thus far, and so early in the season still!!
Sometimes, we take it for granted if we have a favorite team within visiting distance, and I don't mean "day-trip" visiting, rather, I mean locally (30-60 minutes away, maximum). Personally, I grew up visiting Shea Stadium as a kid to see the New York Mets, and now it's Citi Field. So for me, I think sometimes I take it for granted that my team is "right here".
Some folks have gone through the grieving process for teams that were "right here", for example, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Giants, and then there are the folks in Montreal, a big baseball city, that bid farewell to their Expos. Did Montreal Expo fans roll their allegiance behind the Washington Nationals? Did they start flying down to DC to watch their Nationals play? Maybe some of them, but for the most part, it had to hurt. Growing up in New York, I heard stories from folks that were die-hard Dodgers fans in the 1940's and 1950's, and when the team relocated to Los Angeles, these fans went through a very sad period of time that only a true Baseball fan can "get" and understand. Many of the former Brooklyn Dodger fans refused to move their allegiance to the new L.A. team, but many of the same folks refused to become Yankee fans, due to the intense rivalry that existed for so many years (some of these rivalries split families in half!).
However, in 1962, when the MLB expansion brought baseball to Queens with the New York Mets, a large amount of old Brooklyn Dodgers fans found some love once again for the game of baseball, no matter how hapless the Mets were in those first few years.
Recently, the Baseball Commissioner, spoke about the next wave of cities that the MLB will be expanding into. There are a few places that make a lot of sense, as far as locations of new teams, but it makes me wonder about the mind-set of some folks that grew up without a local team.
For example, can you imagine growing up somewhere like Omaha, Nebraska, which is an All-American city like any other Metropolis in our great country. Who would you be a fan of when you are growing up? Well, you have the Kansas City Royals, about 200 Miles and a state away, or the Colorado Rockies, 500+ Miles Away. Who do you choose? Well, if you grew up before the MLB Expansion put the Colorado Rockies team on the Baseball Map, then I guess it would have been the Royals?
Here's my first point; from the standpoint of the actual structure of two leagues and 3 divisions each, you need to have 6 new Expansion teams. Mathematically, there is no other fair way to do it, because the way it works now, an extra team in your division makes achieving one of the wild cards that much more difficult. We're not going back to just an East and West division per league, so 4 teams will not suffice. We need 6, but where can they be? Better yet, where should they be?
#1 Well, my first pick is Omaha. It's prime for a team, and even though there is not a population explosive region surrounding Omaha, it will lure folks from Lincoln, Des Moines, Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and other mid-size cities surrounding it by a stretch of Interstate. The stadium may not require 50,000 seats, but as far as playing in the heart of the country, you cannot get much more "central" than Nebraska on the map.
#2 How about New Orleans? You can argue "why?", with Houston a few hours down I-10. But, hey, there are the NBA Basketball New Orleans Pelicans...and the Houston Rockets. There are the New Orleans Saints of the NFL...and the Houston Texans. Why not MLB Baseball? Perhaps they can be called the New Orleans Cajuns? I am getting hungry just thinking of the potential ballpark fare....clams, oysters, garlic crab....Yum!
#3 Aloha. How about Honolulu, Hawaii? As a gateway to the Far East, Honolulu would be a great place for a team. Aside from a large enough local population, scores of folks would catch games when on vacation in Hawaii. It might also be the next jumping point for the next big stars from Japan or Korea, who are trending towards the West Coast (Shohei Ohtani went to the Angels & Yusei Kikuchi went to the Mariners). What would the team be called? Maybe the Honolulu Hulas? Scratch that. Perhaps the Honolulu Polynesians? The New York Mets are the New York Metropolitans. Perhaps the Honolulu Polynesians can be called the Polys?
#4 Next Stop, Montreal. Montreal is a huge market with a ready-built fan base. Like I mentioned earlier, I sincerely believe that Expos fans did not decide to stay with the franchise chain and become Washington Nationals Fans. Maybe a few, but not the majority. Baseball has a rich history in Montreal, and there is a big drive going on now and discussions regarding where the new stadium would be located. This one already seems to be in motion. I wonder if the old Expos mascot, Youppi! would split time between the Montreal Canadiens NHL team games and Montreal baseball games? He/She/It was a huge part of the fan experience at Olympic Stadium during the time of the Montreal Expos.
The next two may be a stretch, but remember, baseball is becoming global, and these two cities are inevitable.
#5 on my list would be Havana, Cuba. Just 90 Miles from Miami, the love that the Cuban people have for the game of baseball rivals the love that we have for the game. It was meant to be for an MLB team to be based in Cuba, and the time has come for this major step forward to happen. It does not have to be political...it's all about baseball!
#6 on my list may be outlandish, but follow me here. Tokyo, Japan. Another city in another country that eats, sleeps, and dreams baseball. They already have the infrastructure, and would have an MLB team. I know it is far away. But, for example, an East Coast team can head out West, play the California teams and Seattle, then, play the Honolulu team, then the Japanese team, or the same in reverse. These would be long road trips, of course. Then Team Tokyo would have a longer road trip, hitting multiple cities before heading back. They would have 3 major road trips per season, followed by 3 long stretches playing at home, hosting the other teams, one after another.
Honorable mention teams were Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which are also huge baseball countries, as well as Korea and Australia. However, this is just my thoughts on where I'd like to see new teams, and these countries could also be interchangeable.
What are your thoughts? Where do you think the new teams will be located?
Better Question: What do you think their Baseball Cards would look like?
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